Archive for the ‘India’ Category

zz64c5954e1It’s difficult to avoid the influence of superheroes at the cinema today. The blockbuster comic book movies have become staples of not only the American box office, but international theatres as well. Despite the overwhelming visibility of comic book titans like Marvel and DC, many countries have put their own spin on the superhero movie. These are a few of the heroes that have had a lasting impact on the genre or are about to make their own splash.

Guardians

Russia is not one to be slept on when it comes to film. When they finally decided to try their hand at superheroes, the results did not disappoint. Guardians features a gigantic, musclebound, shirtless man with the head of a bear that fires a gatling gun—and makes American superhero films look positively tame by comparison. The movie focuses on a team of Soviet superheroes made during the Cold War who represent the different nationalities of the former USSR. And it manages to tap into the rich culture of the nation while besting the Americans at their own game for superhero spectacle. A recent trailer has the movie looking better than ever and it’s hard not to be excited for this level of cinematic extravagance. It’s officially being released on February 23, 2017 and promises to become an immediate cult hit, proving there’s more to superheroes than The Avengers.

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3 Dev Adam

Spider-Man

Spider-Man might be an American hero by origin but his popularity has spawned more than a few imitators throughout the world. Notable among these is the 1973 Turkish action movie, 3 Dev Adam, where Spider-Man is actually the bad guy and fights against Captain America and legendary Mexican luchador, El Santo. Other notable foreign takes on the beloved wall-crawler include the Japanese Spider-Man show where the hero is given his own giant robot and would go on to influence the show that would eventually become Power Rangers. The heroes from Marvel comics are famous worldwide and have long been ripe for licensing through various media, as evidenced through the varying Marvel titles detailed online that are available at popular casino sites. Comic book heroes are frequently used in games like this throughout the world, which only speaks to their incredible appeal. The fan-favourite continues to delight fans
in international markets and his upcoming film, Spider-Man: Homecoming, is sure to be another success.

Krrish

Of course Bollywood was eventually going to offer its own take on the superhero genre with its trademark flair—but it’s also amazing. The franchise has become the second-highest grossing film series in Bollywood (no small feat) with a fourth film set to come out in 2018. The series began with Koi…Mil Gaya in 2003 before going on to become the incredible franchise it is today. 2013’s Krrish 3 was praised for its spectacular visual effects and broke many box office records upon its release. Those records will likely be shattered upon the release of Krrish 4 as the series manages to combine the song and dance staples of Bollywood with the visual explosiveness of American superhero movies.

These are only a few of the heroes that have helped to showcase the international influence of superhero cinema, but there are many other countries that have offered their own unique spin on the genre. There’s far more to the genre than just what hits the American box office, and the trend of more films like this sprouting up around the world is likely to continue.

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A ‘Pitch-Dark’ Diorama is an original and stylish new indie film from Bangalore based filmmaker Santosh MP, currently screening online for free (available as a full length torrent and a 5 part web series.) We spoke to Santosh about taking risks as an independent filmmaker and finding your audience through hybrid distribution methods. For more details about the film, to download as a feature, and for ways to support it, you can visit vespertilio.in

Synopsis: Indranil Deashi is scouring for the right twist to complete his slasher thriller, ‘Pitch-Dark’.  In a parallel universe, the fictional characters inside of ‘Pitch-Dark’ are, meanwhile, constantly hurtling through an exaggeratedly possessive director’s many mood swings and idiosyncrasies.  When Indranil has just about nailed a fitting conclusion, an unexpected visitor turns up. Personal demons catch up with Indranil, leaving him shattered.  And dead.  Rajiv Dey, writer of schlock thrillers, attempts to recapture his glory days by accepting to finish ‘Pitch-Dark’. He’s promoting the novel to a deceptively thorny critic.  A hard-boiled, lecherous detective encounters a protagonist from the novel.  Brutally slashed.  And the hunt for the perpetrator begins.

What inspired you to make the film and what fresh approach to genre did you want to bring to Indian audiences?

I didn’t consciously set about to take on a fresh approach to a genre. The film itself has two main genres, surreal thriller and drama, with slasher horror thrown in between.

The treatment happened organically. I’d a thought experiment as a feature idea and my influences just happened to be directors and writers who dealt with the ‘puzzle story’. As a result, I’d to learn the machinations and write accordingly. The genre isn’t very well known here but it was a risk I knew right at the outset. The only solution was to produce it independently to retain the creative freedom and continue to make the film challenging right till the final sound mix. I’d to live with the film for three years, so the emotional investment had to be worth it. My father invested a huge chunk of his retirement funds and generous amounts came in from close friends and relatives to make this film possible.

The ramification is that finding an audience becomes more difficult and I have to find innovative ways to take the film to its audience and continue to create more films. The best way to promote work is to make more work. I can’t help but remain optimistic about it.

What informed your choices in terms of shooting style and what format did you shoot on?

I started off as a storyboard artist for animated films and my initial influences were Michael Mann and Christopher Nolan. So I’d a very hollywood coverage in mind when I set about writing the script.

But the cinematographer, Karthik Muthukumar, was hesitant to take that route because it has become standard practice. He wanted to try out long takes that went on for minutes together. He also didn’t want ‘Over the Shoulder’ shots. So we ditched that straight away.

I was lucky that my actors were from a theatre background and were no strangers to performing uninterrupted for a long time. Furthermore, I had 5 timelines in the film. So each timeline required a distinctive style. Thus, we made strict rules for each timeline.

Timeline 1: Static camera

Timeline 2: Static camera but each new shot will be a new camera setup and no angles will be repeated.

Timeline 3: A mix of static and handheld. Black and white film stock only.

Timeline 4: Handheld. Mid-shots.

Timeline 5: Handheld. Mostly close-ups dictated by staging. The longest shot in the film runs for around 5 minutes.

Because it was an independent production, we couldn’t afford sets or production designers. So the cinematographer also insisted on a 1.85:1 aspect ratio to not let the budget limitation show through.

The film was shot on Super 16. I was hell bent on shooting on film and found a valuable ally in Karthik. An independent film shot on celluloid with sync sound was going to be hard and needed tremendous discipline. Luckily, our crew rose to the occasion. The resultant visual quality was worth the effort.

How can the audience watch the film – could you tell me about the mini-series and full feature version. Are there any differences in the versions and what made you decide on this distribution strategy?

With 2 genres, 5 timelines, and 4 languages, I think it was natural that I’d to hunt for my audience. The only way I could do it is to make it accessible for everyone to watch it at their convenience. The film is available on Vimeo and Youtube as a mini- series, and the feature version as a BitTorrent bundle.

It was a personal observation that it is easier to commit to a shorter duration while streaming a film. While the film was originally made as a feature, I did end up having 20 odd minute chunks of it while sending it to the sound department. Purely out of personal interest, I ended each reel at a cliffhanger. It didn’t feel like a bad strategy to release it as a mini-series, especially in today’s binge watching environment. So I took it as a form of an experiment.

There is no difference between the mini-series and the feature version on BitTorrent but there might and probably will be a difference in the viewing experience. The latter will be relentless for 2 straight hours while the former will hope to tease the viewer into the next episode deftly and recalibrate storyline expectations.

The impact of the animated intro will be more pronounced, however, in the mini- series as it sets an ominous tone for each episode and the repetition becomes a character in itself.

This distribution strategy was devised to find my film an audience. Expecting a conventional theatrical release for a raw indie like this might have been unrealistic and it proved to be so. The only way out was self-distribution. The hitch is that the internet is such a huge place that small films are swamped to the point of being utterly insignificant.

Filmmaker Graham Jones’ Nuascannan movement inspired me tremendously to put the film out without any payment or time bound barriers and make it accessible to everyone. Nina Paley’s Sita Sings The Blues was a case study too. It is a huge risk but the only thing worse than a film to not make money is for a film to not be seen and not make money. I have an ongoing crowdfunding campaign for donations as well as a Paypal checkout on the site so that people can watch the film and if they enjoy it and would like to donate, they have a convenient method to do so.

Can you tell me about your next project?

I have a few projects lined up. I’d like to do a series of essays on the benefits of reading and the importance of bookstores. I’ve two feature ideas that have been outlined. The first one’s a thriller drama about the power play in an illicit relationship and the second is a semi autobiographical drama about high school boys on the lines of Mario Llosa Vargas’ “The Time of the Hero”. But the timeline for these films will depend on the donations that will come in for “A ‘Pitch-Dark’ Diorama”. I’m keeping my hopes up though.

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Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 16.34.25Late in the day it may be, but one of the most visually sumptuous films to arrive in 2015 is surely Bajirao Mastani, by legendary Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Devdas, Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela.)

The film features stunning visual work by Cinematographer Sudeep Chatterjee and three Production Designers: Saloni Dhatrak, Sriram Iyengar and Sujeet Sawant. It certainly looks like a herculean cinematic effort and is expected to break box office records this Christmas.

Set in Mughal India and based on the true story of Peshwa Baji Rao (Ranveer Singh), one of India’s greatest warriors, the film follows the fortunes of the ‘Warrior Prince’, his first wife Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra) and the love of his life, his second wife Mastani (Deepika Padukone).

For a look at the film, check out the trailer below:

And for more see the song Deewani Mastani:

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1) THE DANCE OF REALITY (DIR. ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY, CHILE)

From the auteur director who once declared “I like violence, I love violence!” and “I make films with my cojones” comes 2013’s most arresting and emotional film. The Dance of Reality retraces Jodorowsky’s troubled childhood in Chile with a wildly imaginative bent. Re-imagining his oppressive father as a Stalin doppleganger (performed by his son Brontis Jodorowsky) and his mother as an opera singer (Pamela Flores), Jodorowsky re-writes the stale rulebook of the biopic (or in this case the autobiopic) with a film that is as much a testament to his surrealistic voice as a director, as it is to the therapeutic power of cinema.

2) SPRING BREAKERS (DIR. HARMONY KORINE, USA)

The ever-contentious innovator Harmony Korine achieves a bizarre combination of commercialism and radical formalism with Spring Breakers. The film is driven by a plot (written by Korine) that moves efficiently and relentlessly, while maintaining the illusion of chaos. Korine’s work with editor Douglas Crise (BabelArbitrage) is particularly impressive, as they weave together a cyclical, hallucinatory cutting rhythm, with which to sting out Korine’s raw coverage of hedonistic partygoers. Highlights include the opening beach party (set to an unexpectedly tuneful Skrillex soundtrack), a ruthless heist scene and James Franco’s stirring rendition of Britney Spears’ ‘Everytime.’

3) MY SWEET PEPPER LAND (DIR. HINER SALEEM, FRANCE/GERMANY/IRAQ)

My Sweet Pepper Land from Iraqi–Kurdish director Hiner Saleem is a painfully funny film, with a fresh take on the Spaghetti Western. Following the fall of Saddam Hussein, Baran (a Kurdish Independence war hero) leaves the Iraqi city of Erbil to be stationed in a lawless town on the boarders of Iran, Turkey and Iraq where he begins a small, violent, revolution. Unlike many recent American Western, the film does not feel confined to history, owing to its contemporary backdrop of Middle Eastern rebellion. That said, the film still maintains many great Western tropes, making it an excellent contribution to the genre.

4) JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (DIR. FRANK PAVICH, USA)

The greatest unexpected crowd-pleaser of the year was Frank Pavich’s celebratory documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to turn Frank Herbert’s Dune into a film. With an invigorating, emotive narration from Jodorowsky himself, as well as contributions from many of the key players in the pre-production of the project, Jodorowsky’s Dune ultimately discovers how glorious it can be to fail spectacularly. Jodorowsky tells of his search for Orson Welles, his promise to pay Salvador Dali more money per minute than any other actor and his outrage at Pink Floyd as they munched hamburgers while he pitched them the project. It is also beautifully cut and animated.

5) SIDE EFFECTS (DIR. STEVEN SODERBERGH, USA)

Before Behind the Candelabra was cut from a television series into a film, Side Effects was Soderbergh’s cinematic swansong and it would have been sufficient. A sordid tale of moneymaking in the pharmaceutical industry, Soderbergh dramatises this biting critique immaculately, without selling out an ounce of tension to the film’s social commentary. Working effectively on both levels, the film also provides room for a career best performance from Jude Law, as well as a frighteningly sedate Roony Mara. Supporting roles are cast exceptionally, with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum both making an impression. Soderbergh’s own cinematography also creates an immersive atmosphere of depression, with gloomy tones and a foggy shallow focus captured on the Red EPIC camera.

6) HARMONY LESSONS (DIR. EMIR BAIGAZIN, KAZAKHSTAN)

With Harmony Lessons 29 year old Kazakh director Emir Baigazin announced himself as one of the world’s boldest young directors at the Berlinale 2013. The film tells of Aslan, a thirteen year old boy living with his grandmother in a small village in Kazakhstan. An intelligent boy, Aslan is bullied by the other students at his school, lead by the sadistic Bolat. The film observes Aslan’s descent into violence and sadism, as he transfers his angst towards various animals and insects, rather than his fellow students. The film’s style is boldly rooted in its local aesthetic, while simultaneously recalling the American tradition of the Gangster genre. The way Baigazin deals with violence is powerful and sometimes almost unbearable.

7) GRAVITY (DIR. ALFONSO CUARON, USA)

2013’s best hi-concept film was surely Gravity, a film so simple in its intent, yet so elaborate in its design and execution. Up with Jaws and Alien in its sense of dread, Gravity is a hugely tense thriller that overcomes shortcomings which include crude characterisation (George Clooney’s Matt Kowalski), unconvincing emotional stakes (Sandra Bullock’s Ryan Stone) and silly dialogue, with its overall purpose: the attempt to avoid dying alone in the void of space. If anything the film actually suffers from its efforts to add depth to the dilemma, because its horror is so fundamental and horrifying. That Cuarón rendered this horror so convincingly, with masterful long shots and subtle 3D, is the film’s true power.

8) THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (DIR. DEREK CIANFRANCE, USA)

An enormously ambitious follow up to 2010’s Blue Valentine for director Derek Cianfrance, The Place Beyond the Pines walks a fine line between cinematic epic and overreaching indie film, eventually emerging as a happy medium of the two. Cianfrance attempts a bold designation of screen time to the film’s four main male characters, defined predominantly by act. This creates a make-or-break situation for the viewer, some of whom will run with it, while others will baulk will the changing allegiances. For those who stay with the film, it has enormous emotional potential and boasts fine performances from Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, as well as the younger Dane DeHaan.

9) PAPILIO BUDDHA (DIR. JAYAN CHERIAN, INDIA)

Banned in its native India, Papilio Buddha is a fierce, relevant film defending the rights of the Dalit people in the Western Ghats of the country. Poet, turned director, Jayan Cherian brings a sensitive, crafted approach to a story that brims with political anger and injustice. While the film’s primary area of interest is its attack on caste oppression, it also deals with other issues of prominent contemporary concern, including deforestation, women’s rights and homosexuality. The irony of seeing such a film banned, is that it seems so relevant to many current issues of debate. Encouragingly, Papilio Buddha has just earned a place among the Panorama section of the Berlinale 2014, which should give the film the platform it needs.

10) ONLY GOD FORGIVES (DIR. NICOLAS WINDING REFN, USA)

A divisive film if there was one in 2013. For most viewers Only God Forgives was either a provocative success, or an insulting failure. For those who were not phased by the gratuitous violence, mannequin-esque performances, broody long takes and sometimes terrible dialogue, there was an immersive cinematic experience to be had. The film is adorned with Refn’s familiar ‘fetishistic’ elements (bold colours, long takes, minimalist acting, booming soundtrack), but this time he tries something new – he asks the viewer to indulge in his (occasionally crude) symbolism, to assemble the full story. Like it or hate it, each viewer will find something different; this makes Only God Forgives a genuinely refreshing thriller in the contemporary film market.

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Originally banned in its native country, Jayan Cherian’s Papilio Buddha is a fierce attack on caste oppression, mainstream Gandhism and environmental degradation in the Western Ghats of India. Uncompromising in its critique of iconic Indian leaders and treatment of indigenous and landless Dalit peoples (known as ‘untouchables’ for their ostracised status), this is a radically anti-establishment piece of filmmaking, with a raw & accomplished naturalistic style.

In spite of its radical outlook, the film begins poetically with protagonist Shankaran (Sreekumar Sree) hunting for butterflies among the mountains; he is at one with nature. Soon after he meets gay American Jack (David Briggs) and it turns out the two men are romantically involved. While to the displeasure of Shankaran’s elderly father, homosexuality is of little consequence among this Dalit community.

Unhappy with the presence of an American among the Dalits though, the Indian authorities force Jack to leave the community (telling him the Dalits are terrorists and squatters), before stripping and torturing Shankaran in prison. Simultaneously Manjursee (Saritha), a female schoolteacher, Buddhist and auto rickshaw driver, runs into trouble with men outside of the Dalit community. The community is angered and dedicate themselves to Buddhism as a response.

Lensed with a pensive camera style, Cherian adorns the film with Buddhist emblems, which transition from having a spiritual significance to a political one. The image of Buddha returns in significant scenes, accompanying moments of peace, eroticism and violence. When Manjursee is sexually assaulted and her rickshaw set alight, the Buddha remains prominent among the flames; it represents a defiant hope for the struggling community.

Cherian uses the image of Gandhi (which the Dalits actively mock) to represent the way in which his legacy is used to justify wrongs in modern Indian society. In one scene a prominent group of Gandhists, accompanied by the army, try to persuade the Dalits to move from their land peacefully; they are followed by a media mob. The scene represents the inequitable voice of influence presented by the Indian media, as the Dalits are manipulated to look unholy and fundamentalist.

To a non-Indian viewer Papilio Buddha is a particularly challenging experience, for the rich detail of its cultural backdrop. It is a film that looks so radically upon this particular political, religious, social and cultural environment, that it cannot be judged fully by an outsider. However, it is a film made with such symbolic vigor that it cries to be seen. Cherian’s visual sensibility is also one unfamiliar in mainstream Indian cinema, making for a film of great visual worth.

Finally the film makes a strong statement about the livelihood of the Dalits and the very landscape of India. As a group of the dispossessed travel through the mountainous regions on foot, Cherian frames them in wide shots of the decaying landscape. Moving beyond the political and ideological symbolism of Papilio Buddha momentarily, the director suggests in powerful terms that oppression of the Dalit peoples and the destruction of the natural world is one and the same.

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The BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival kicked off its exciting programme of films and events yesterday with Jeffrey Schwarz’s documentary I am Devine as the opening film.

I am Divine tells the story of Harris Glenn Milstead the iconic star of John Waters’ films including Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Hairspray. I am Divine examines Divine’s fruitful and frequently surprising career and features interviews with John Waters himself, as well as Divine’s mother, Village Voice film critic Michael Musto and many of Divine’s associates and co-stars.

Over the course of the festival we at Reflections will also be looking further afield to films from Israel (Out In The Dark), France (Les Invisibles), South Korea (White Night), Jamaica (Taboo Yardies), India (Papilio Buddha) and Iran to examine the breadth and depth of LGBT filmmaking in 2013.

The LLGFF also delves into critical moments of film history, with a focus on the late Italian auteur Pier Paolo Pasolini. The festival includes screenings of his controversial masterpiece Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom as well as the new documentary Pasolini’s Last Words and the panel discussion Queer Pasolini.

The festival is also hosting timely events including We Love David Bowie, which looks at David Bowie’s status as a queer icon, talks on Queer Screen Activism for younger people and Global Queer Space, which looks at the role of LGBT film on an international scale. Check back for more on the festival’s vibrant programme.

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